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The Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey
Robert Southey to C. W. W. Wynn, 22 December 1802

Vol. I Contents
Early Life: I
Early Life: II
Early Life: III
Early Life: IV
Early Life: V
Early Life: VI
Early Life: VII
Early Life: VIII
Early Life: IX
Early Life: X
Early Life: XI
Early Life: XII
Early Life: XIII
Early Life: XIV
Early Life: XV
Early Life: XVI
Early Life: XVII
Ch. I. 1791-93
Ch. II. 1794
Ch. III. 1794-95
Ch. IV. 1796
Ch. V. 1797
Vol. II Contents
Ch. VI. 1799-1800
Ch. VII. 1800-1801
Ch. VIII. 1801
Ch. IX. 1802-03
Ch. X. 1804
Ch. XI. 1804-1805
Vol. III Contents
Ch. XII. 1806
Ch. XIII. 1807
Ch. XIV. 1808
Ch. XV. 1809
Ch. XVI. 1810-1811
Ch. XVII. 1812
Vol. IV Contents
Ch. XVIII. 1813
Ch. XIX. 1814-1815
Ch. XX. 1815-1816
Ch. XXI. 1816
Ch. XXII. 1817
Ch. XXIII. 1818
Ch. XXIV. 1818-1819
Vol. IV Appendix
Vol. V Contents
Ch. XXV. 1820-1821
Ch. XXVI. 1821
Ch. XXVII. 1822-1823
Ch. XXVIII. 1824-1825
Ch. XXIX. 1825-1826
Ch. XXX. 1826-1827
Ch. XXXI. 1827-1828
Vol. V Appendix
Vol. VI Contents
Ch. XXXII. 1829
Ch. XXXIII. 1830
Ch. XXXIV. 1830-1831
Ch. XXXV. 1832-1834
Ch. XXXVI. 1834-1836
Ch. XXXVII. 1836-1837
Ch. XXXVIII. 1837-1843
Vol. VI Appendix
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“Dec. 22. 1802.

Vidi the Review of Edinburgh. The first part is designed evidently as an answer to Wordsworth’s Preface to the second edition of the Lyrical Ballads; and, however relevant to me, quoad Robert Southey, is certainly utterly irrelevant to Thalaba. In their account of the story they make some blunders of negligence: they ask how Thalaba knew that he was to be the Destroyer, forgetting that the Spirit told him so in the text; they say that the inscription of the locust’s forehead teaches him to read the ring, which is not the case; and that Mohareb tries to kill him at last, though his own life would be destroyed at the same time,—without noticing that that very ‘though’ enters into the passage, and the reason why is given. I added all the notes for the cause
Ætat. 28. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 197
which they suspect: they would have accused me of plagiarism where they could have remembered the original hint; but they affirm that all is thus borrowed,—without examining, when all that belongs to another is subtracted, what quantity of capital remains. This is dishonest, for there is no hint to be found elsewhere for the best parts of the poem, and the most striking incidents of the story.

“The general question concerning my system and taste is one point at issue; the metre, another. These gentlemen who say that the metre of the Greek choruses is difficult to understand at a first reading, have, perhaps, made it out at last, else I should plead the choruses as precedent, and the odes of Stolberg in German, and the Ossian of Cesarotti in Italian; but this has been done in the M. Magazine’s review of Thalaba. For the question of taste, I shall enter into it when I preface Madoc. I believe we are both classics in our taste; but mine is of the Greek, theirs of the Latin school. I am for the plainness of Hesiod and Homer, they for the richness and ornaments of Virgil. They want periwigs placed upon bald ideas, a narrative poem must have its connecting parts; it cannot be all interest and incident, no more than a picture all light, a tragedy all pathos. . . . . The review altogether is a good one, and will be better than any London one, because London reviewers always know something of the authors who appear before them, and this inevitably affects the judgment. I, myself, get the worthless poems of some good-natured person whom I know; I am aware of what review-
phrases go for, and contrive to give that person no pain, and deal out such milk-and-water praise as will do no harm: to speak of smooth versification and moral tendency, &c. &c., will take in some to buy the book, while it serves as an emollient mixture for the patient. I have rarely scratched without giving a plaister for it; except, indeed, where a fellow puts a string of titles to his name, or such an offender as
—— appears, and then my inquisitorship, instead of actually burning him, only ties a few crackers to his tail.

“But when any Scotchman’s book shall come to be reviewed, then see what the Edinburgh critics will say. . . . . Their philosophy appears in their belief in Hindoo chronology! and when they abuse Parr’s style, it is rather a knock at the dead lion, old Johnson. A first number has great advantages; the reviewers say their say upon all subjects, and lay down the law: that contains the Institutes; by and by they can only comment.

God bless you!
R. S.”